Friday, 23 December 2011

Rage Against the Night in support of Rocky Wood

I'm excited to say I'm appearing in an anthology with Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, Joe McKinney and many other huge names in the history genre.


Rocky Wood is the President of the Horror Writers Association, an award-nominated scholar, and a top bloke. He is also battling motor neurone disease.

Rage Against the Night, edited by Shane Jiraiya Cummings, brings together the megastars of horror in support of Rocky. Rage Against the Night features stories of triumph against the forces of  darkness from the biggest names in horror. All proceeds from the sale of the anthology will go to Rocky so he can purchase an eye gaze machine, which will help Rocky communicate as his disease progresses
Rage Against the Night will be published by Brimstone Press in late December (ebook edition) and January (print edition).

The anthology includes my original novella, "The Nightmare Dimension", the first in my new Gordon McColley series.

Here is the impressive line-up:
  • The Gunner's Love Song—Joe McKinney
  • Keeping Watch—Nate Kenyon
  • Like Part of the Family—Jonathan Maberry
  • The Edge of Seventeen—Alexandra Sokoloff
  • The View from the Top—Bev Vincent
  • Afterward, There Will Be a Hallway—Gary A. Braunbeck
  • Following Marla—John R. Little
  • Magic Numbers—Gene O'Neill
  • Tail the Barney—Stephen M. Irwin
  • The Nightmare Dimension—David Conyers
  • Roadside Memorials—Joseph Nassise
  • Dat Tay Vao—F. Paul Wilson
  • Constitution—Scott Nicholson
  • Mr. Aickman's Air Rifle—Peter Straub
  • Agatha's Ghost—Ramsey Campbell
  • Blue Heeler—Weston Ochse
  • Sarah's Visions—Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • More Than Words—David Niall Wilson
  • Chillers—Lisa Morton
  • Changed—Nancy Holder
  • Dead Air—Gary Kemble
  • Two Fish to Feed the Masses—Daniel G. Keohane
  • Fenstad's End—Sarah Langan
  • Fair Extension—Stephen King
  • Rocky Wood, Skeleton Killer—Jeff Strand
 The e-book can be purchased at Amazon.com or Smashswords.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

David Agranoff reviews The Eye of Infinity

Dark fiction author David Agranoff has posted a review of The Eye of Infinity on his blog:

Jam packed title that left me wanting more. That is a sign of a good read. Cool book, I am first in line and excited for the further adventures.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

New Anthology Submission Guidelines from Chaosium

Chaosium is making a big push into the speculative fiction anthology market at the moment. Here are some of the anthologies looking for submissions, one of which I'm co-editing:

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Paul Drummond

With Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue now in circulation, we’ve decided to interview Paul Drummond, who provided the very exciting cover for the issue. Paul is a rising talent in the speculative fiction field of future illustrations, and we’re sure we’ll be seeing more of his work on book covers in the future.

David Conyers: You work as a web designer, e-book design, commercial illustrator and graphic designer, but you are probably best known as a science fiction illustrator. Where does your interest in this genre stem from, and what appeals to you about the SF in the illustrated form?

Paul Drummond: Most of my illustration work involves product visuals and non sci-fi, but I can understand why people prefer the spaceships and robots. I've always been a big reader and developed the sci-fi habit as a teenager. I remember Larry Niven's 'Known Space' series making a strong impression on me because of the interstellar-scale settings, memorable characters and big dumb objects. It's satisfying to read stories set in a consistent, tightly plotted universe, and while you can get that from all genres, sci-fi seems to scratch the itch for me. I'm also fond of 70s sci-fi book covers because they're so evocative of that time, even though they often have nothing to do with the story inside!

It was only when I got to know other artists that I considered sci-fi illustration commercially, but I'm glad I made the jump. I enjoy translating authors' ideas into images and creating worlds that contain odd or surprising elements. If I can produce something that clearly doesn't exist in the real world but looks as if it could I've done my job properly. A good tagline would be 'making the unreal believable', although that sounds like something from a marketing agency. At the same time I have to fight my tendency to make things low key. I'm happy to read about fantastic events but not so good at portraying them. Perhaps I should just throw in a few exploding planets and half-naked women to liven things up.


David: Your illustration for the cover of Midnight Echo 6, "Strange Behaviour" has proved to be immensely popular. It depicts a robot holding a severed human eye. Can you tell us about this image and where you got your idea for this piece?
Paul: This image was created several years ago as an entry for a competition run by the CG Society. At that time I was unsure how to get started as a commercial illustrator, so a high profile competition seemed like a good idea. I didn't win because the other entries were so much better, but it was good practice for working to a deadline. The theme of the competition was 'strange behaviour', hence the title, and my aim was to create an image where the odd or horrifying element isn't immediately apparent. I also liked the idea of a disturbingly blank face, in this case with the features reduced to a single eye.
David: Which artists influenced you and what do you like about their works?
Paul: Is this where I list obscure Baroque painters to make myself look clever? Starting with commercial illustration I admire concept & FX artists such as Scott Spencer, Neville Page, Ryan Church and Dylan Cole. They combine artistic talent and technical mastery to produce incredibly detailed, large scale illustrations of fantastic subjects. Digital design is difficult because the tools are so complex they can interrupt the flow of ideas. It's very hard to create expressive art while trying to get your head around the intricacies of ZBrush or Cinema4D. I'm still fumbling through this process so look up to artists who've managed it.

Considering art in general I tend to go for landscapes and portraits. Artists who come to mind include Caspar David Friedrich, who was not a cheery chap but created wonderfully dramatic paintings such as "The Sea of Ice / The Wreck of Hope". I wasn't joking about the Barogue painters because I'm influenced by chiaroscuro, or the technique of using strong contrast between light and dark to suggest volume and shape. Look at paintings by Velázquez and Caravaggio for examples of this. I also admire American landscape artists of the 19th century such as Thomas Cole, but should probably stop now before I end up in Pseuds Corner!

David:  What are some of your favourite pieces of your own work?

Paul: I'm very critical of my own work, but 'Flicker', the 'Bot' series, the 'Dreadnaught' concepts and architectural images such as 'Helix' seemed to work out.

David: Where can we next expect to see Paul Drummond's illustrations in print?

Paul: Other than advertisement and concept work, very little is in print. Most of my illustration work is now for ebook covers.
Biography - Paul Drummond

Paul Drummond is a stray from north of the border who was taken in by the good folk of Lancashire, England. He now lives there and divides his time between commercial illustration, design and working through a long list of things to do. His clients include TTA Press, publishers of Interzone for which he has provided many images, including covers. You can see more of his work at www.pauldrummond.co.uk.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Submissions Sought: Extreme Planets

I'm editing a new anthology with David Kernot and Jeff Harris, Extreme Planets. It is a science fiction anthology about extrasolar planets that will be published by Chaosium. The submission guidelines are found here, and updates will be posted on my website.

Friday, 9 December 2011

SF Crowsnest Reviews "The Masked Messenger"

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, issue 52 edited by David Kernot got a great review on SF Crowsnest. Here is what reviewer Rod MacDonald said about John Goodrich and my collaboration, "The Masked Messenger", which is another tale in my Harrison Peel series:
   
"David Conyers and John Goodrich are the joint authors of ‘The Masked Messenger’ which features Harrison Peel in another Cthulhu Mythos story. The agent is in Morocco to investigate strange deaths where people end up being cut into thousands of pieces. Is this a conventional terrorist act or is it an act of a cult belonging to the Masked Messenger? There is a strange book, centuries old, which contains deadly secrets and there is also a portal in the Sahara Desert which leads on to another world completely different from our own. An excellent tale full of suspense and action, it's worth purchasing the magazine for this alone."

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Eye of Infinity is reviewed at Innsmouth Free Press

Conyers’ story works as a spy thriller – with Peel and even his NSA superiors locked out of the secrets of INFINITE EYE and somebody suborning or murdering members of the project – and as Lovecraftian horror justified by quantum physics and sudden, violent assaults on Peel and others ... I liked the story enough that I’m going to pick up The Spiraling Worm and will follow Peel’s future adventures. - Randy Stafford, Innsmouth Free Press.



I like this review because it says nice things about the interior art:

And, lest you think $12 is a mite steep for a novella, this one comes with some nice black and white drawings by Nickolas Gucker. His work nicely illustrates dramatic points of the story – whether they’re alien landscapes or sudden and gruesome deaths.

Nick Gucker did a fantastic job at illustrating "The Eye". I felt like he was picking images right out of my mind as I imagined them, he drew it that well.

Read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Shane Jiraiya Cummings

With the release today of Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue in e-format, here is the second interview with the authors from the issue. Shane Jiraiya Cummings is well-known for promoting Australian horror fiction internationally and as co-founder with Angela Challis of Brimstone Press, Australia’s leading small press publisher in the genre. He also knows how to craft compelling and horrific tales, and “Graveyard Orbit” is a good example of Cummings skills.
1. What is your favorite Sci-fi horror novel or short story?

To throw a curve ball, my main sci-fi horror influences have been films. I don’t read enough novels, let alone sci-fi novels, to easily cite an influence. Having said that, I don’t know if there are that many truly awe-inspiring sci-fi horror novelists out there (excluding the thriving Cthulhu Mythos mob – guys like Cody Goodfellow and our own David Conyers have produced some exceptionally imaginative Mythos work that blends SF with horror).

  

I love a dark, gritty story set in outer space, a trillion trillion kilometres from home, which is why films such as Event Horizon and Alien really appeal to me. Perhaps it was my stage in life and the circumstances that particular evening, but Event Horizon scared the bejeezus out of me when I first saw it at the cinema. That combination of the extreme isolation of space, the claustrophobia of a derelict ship, and the threat of the supernatural really resonates with me. I feel that people find comfort in technology, and these kind of films touch on this as the protagonists often rely on advanced equipment and weaponry, and as a result, they enter situations with way too much confidence (the Colonial Marines on LV-426 in Aliens, anyone?). I love that moment when the characters’ belief in advanced technology fails and they need to rely on neglected, almost antiquated skills to survive (such as good old fashioned human ingenuity). I particularly enjoy clashes of technology and the supernatural. An intriguing, if a little cheesy, take on this occurred in Jason X (the tenth Friday the 13th film, set aboard a starship).

2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?

Directly, you can blame the band Filter for “Graveyard Orbit”. I sometimes like writing to music, and when a particular song matches the words well, melds into the background, and no longer intrudes on the creative process, I put it on endless loop until the story is finished. It’s a bit Asperger’s, I know, but I have those tendencies. In the case of “Graveyard Orbit”, it was a song titled “The 4th" by Filter. There are no words (discernible ones anyway, as a phrase is repeated in reverse and then buried under a creepy, atmospheric tune) but the song really helped me bring the story to life.

Indirectly, you can blame David Conyers. I’d always wanted to write a Cthulhu Mythos story, and when David invited me to contribute to the Call of Cthulhu fiction anthology Cthulhu’s Dark Cults (Chaosium, 2010), he sparked my imagination. The resulting contribution, “Requiem for the Burning God”, became a novella (and was later published as a standalone ebook) and the first in what I call the ‘Ravenous Gods’ cycle of stories. “Graveyard Orbit” is the second story in the ‘Ravenous Gods’ cycle, although chronologically, it will probably be the fourth or fifth (once I write the intervening stories). Without revealing spoilers, even though the two stories are set roughly 500 years apart, they have a character in common.

I believe that a big idea should be at the heart of every story, which is why my stories are getting longer and longer. In “Graveyard Orbit”, I hint at an explanation for why there are holes in the universe’s dark matter structure. There is an underlying Mythos-inspired supernatural explanation for the structure of the universe, and while this story doesn’t explicitly offer explanations, it lays clues for what could be revealed in future ‘Ravenous Gods’ stories. And it wouldn’t be a Mythos-inspired story without a brush with the alien, the bizarre, the unknowable, and that is exactly what you will find in orbit around the planet Osiris II.

3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

I have years of experience as a journo, and I find writing news or non-fiction easier than writing fiction (although the mechanics of journalism – interviewing people and transcribing quotes – is a lot more exhausting), but ultimately, I feel more intense satisfaction from completing a work of fiction.

Now for something completely new – as a person (not just a writer), I possess a bizarre ‘superpower’: I am invisible to birds. Whether I’m in my car or walking, my fine feathered friends simply can’t see me. It’s a completely useless and only mildly inconvenient power. The worst of it is when I’m driving and trying to avoid birds on the road or when I need to walk through a large flock of birds (pigeons are a delight – I’m almost guaranteed to have a stray wing smack me in the side of the head, and given that I’m now used to the unexpected brush of feathers, the bird is usually more surprised than I am!). I first discovered this dubious ability when as a teenager I was sitting in a park in Sydney and a particularly imposing ibis spotted the chips I was eating and methodically stalked its way towards them, stepping over my legs and completely ignoring my warding arm. It nabbed one of the chips, but it must have been disturbed when (to its eyes) the rest of the chips levitated away as I left the park in annoyance. My experiences with birds will make great fodder for a story in the future!

Graveyard Orbit
Shane Jiraiya Cummings

System: HD 209458 (designation: Osiris).
Distance from Earth: 150.4 light years (Pegasus Constellation).

“What in hell is that?” Walker pointed to the brown-yellow smudge on the central viewscreen.
Lost to his interface with the ship, Peng took a few moments to answer, “What?”

“You mean, ‘what, Captain’,” Walker said with distraction. He’d spent the entire three month journey reminding his subordinates of his position, and correcting them had become an automatic response.

“Uh, yeah, what, Captain?” Peng said, although he remained interfaced with the ship and didn’t bother to turn to address him.

Peng’s crewmate—and the Wellington’s first officer—Huang was also interfaced, but he appeared to quiver slightly. Although his back was to Walker, he was sure Huang was suppressing laughter.

“Enough, you two,” Walker chided. “I want a full spectrum analysis on that planet. Thermal, radiation, gravity density mapping, atmospheric composition, the works.”

“Sure, Captain.” Huang swivelled in his chair to face Walker. “Although if you just interface... oh, very sorry, I forgot, you’re not enhanced.” The wireless pods embedded in Huang’s temples pulsed with lights. The magnetically insulated strips that ran up the sides of his neck and disappeared into his hairline strobed in a lightning-fast sequence of flashes.

Walker grimaced. The instant information Huang was accessing from the *Wellington’s* telemetry arrays was more of a slap in the face than his words—and Huang knew it. It wasn’t the first time his subordinates had mocked him for his humanity. Mundanes such as Walker were fast becoming obsolete. If he hadn’t owned the *Wellington*, he’d be unable to pick up work in interstellar exploration.

“Just show me what you have, Huang.” Walker sighed. “Main screen.”

The image was still grainy. Walker rubbed his eyes. The advanced telemetry of the *Wellington’s* equipment should have been able to display the visual with crystal clarity. Even with Huang’s tweaking, the image refused to resolve itself.

“Serious ionisation,” Peng muttered.

“Speak up, Peng,” Walker said.

Peng muttered something inaudible, lost as he was to the interface with the ship. Huang, too, was silent as he absorbed the data.

Walker thumped the arm of his chair. “Come on, guys! Don’t drift on me. I need answers!”

Peng straightened in his chair but took a few seconds to disengage from the data stream. “Osiris II has an atmosphere of approximately six hundred klicks. Apart from the ionisation, I’m getting no readings at all.”

“Something wrong with the equipment?” Walker asked.

“No,” Huang answered after a pause. “I ran a diagnostic and the arrays are in working order.”

Walker glanced at the planet on the main screen again. “Strange. It looks like pollution haze. Reminds me of home.”

Although his vision was unenhanced, Walker pressed his face to the nearest viewport. Until today, Osiris II had been an unclassifiable planet, identified only as a gravity distortion by telescopes in far orbit in the Sol System. Walker’s best guess was that it was akin to Venus, a rocky planet covered in a thick layer of gasses, but he needed a closer look.

“Move us into low orbit.” Walker commanded as he returned to his chair. “I want to pierce the veil.”
Within moments, the ship lurched to the right, and Walker’s stomach with it. The planet loomed in the viewport larger by the second.

As their approach vector changed, Walker spotted something.

“Stop the ship!” he called to the crew. Within seconds, the ship slowed and stopped. Walker’s stomach lurched a second time from the deceleration. He was forced to grip his chair tight to avoid being dumped on the floor.

“See that debris? What is that?” Walker asked.

Biography – Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Shane Jiraiya Cummings has been acknowledged as “one of Australia’s leading voices in dark fantasy”. He is the author of Shards, Phoenix and the Darkness of Wolves, The Smoke Dragon, Requiem for the Burning God, the four volumes of the Apocrypha Sequence, and the forthcoming collection The Abandonment of Grace and Everything After. More on Shane can be found at www.jiraiya.com.au. “Graveyard Orbit” is part of Shane’s ‘Ravenous Gods’ cycle of Cthulhu Mythos-inspired stories.

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Cody Goodfellow

With the release today of Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue in e-format, we’ve decided to interview two authors from the issue. The first is Cody Goodfellow, a rising star on the global horror and weird fiction scene. Cody’s style is always captivating and his story “Earthworms” demonstrates his skill. It was so good, it opens the issue.

1. What is your favorite Sci-fi horror novel or short story? 

Blood Music by Greg Bear. I read it shortly after discovering Lovecraft in junior high school, and it perfectly dovetailed with the unacceptable revelations of At The Mountains Of Madness. It was an utterly new vision of the apocalypse in its truest sense, as revelation rather than mere disaster. Also, it cleverly disposed of cliche cleft-jawed heroes and sexy scientists fighting to avert the coming change.




2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are? 

For "Earth Worms", I delved into cherished memories of pulp sci-fi from Fredric Brown and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as cheesy Golden Age sci-fi comics, where the undoing of all human aspirations come as the punch line of a twisted cosmic joke. To push those hoary old tropes in the service of a deadly earnest issues like environmental and spiritual apocalypse scenarios just seemed like a natural fit, with the unspeakable alien zookeeper obligingly explaining how, from our earliest origins as multicellular life on Earth, we'd been conned.

3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

Not much of international interest... I used to write for a local music and culture magazine in San Diego, and was one of the first (if not the first) to unmask guerrilla artist Shepard Fairey as the man behind the Andre The Giant sticker and banner campaign back in the 90s. I used to compose electronic scores for porno videos in college, and am currently working on the soundtrack for a short monster movie I wrote called Stay At Home Dad.

Earthworms
Cody Goodfellow

Gary Caldwell awoke from a dream he couldn’t remember, except for the sound of his own voice telling him to be fruitful and multiply.

Cold golden light poured like sand into his eyes, but he could not close them. Could not move at all. He could see nothing but the light, feel only a vague, universal aching which brought him to the edge of panic. He was still in his body, or he seemed to be. The sensations he felt were nothing like the deep meditation or the OOBE training that was supposed to prepare him for the end.

Something his wife said came to him, just then: the End isn’t when we die… it’s when we all get what we deserve…

Was this what he deserved, then? Was this the Limbo reserved for infidels and unbelievers? It would be far better, if he could panic; if he could feel exultation, fear… anything.

Because the end had come, and what he believed had come true.

This thought cast his discomfort and confusion into a whole new light. He had seen them come down out of the sky with his own eyes. When the whole human race had succumbed to despair, he and the others who shared the vision had held out long enough to see them come.

He was with Joyce in the communications bunker, watching the torrential acid rain. The telescopes and pirate satellite feeds had found nothing, but their Big Ear had been pinging with anomalous radio signals for weeks. Someone had to be listening out there, and might finally be trying to speak.

Caldwell was the only one well enough to stand watch. A Grey Grids infection had wiped out half the group in the last week. Joyce was well into the terminal phase, the livid, circuitry-shaped rash branding every pallid inch of skin, but she came topside to bring him soup and spend her last breaths on accusations.

“Just admit it, darling,” she whispered, like begging for medicine. “Admit you were wrong.” It was unworthy of her, but it was easier than facing the real betrayal. She had followed him out here, and she was dying, and he was not.

“What did I do, now?” He busied himself with rebooting the sweeping radio receivers, but no outsiders broke into their argument. The constant atmospheric disturbances caused by the roving tri-state cyclone-cluster they called the Funnel, now a permanent feature of the Great Plains, had snuffed out all terrestrial communications.

No one on Earth had anything to say that was worth hearing, anyway. Night and day, the group tended their telescopes, their radio transmitters and their lasers, and sent out Dr. Scriabin’s message to the universe.

“All of this was a mistake. All the calculations, the predictions, the pilgrimage out here… just laser-guided prayer. Just another cargo cult pipe dream.”

That stung. The world had called them a cult, but what did they believe, that was not written in the poisoned earth, the tainted skies and the rising, dying seas? Their leader was not a wild-eyed crankcase, or a glad-handing evangelist, but a soft-spoken retired college professor.

Dr. Scriabin predicted the end based on Malthusian charts and greenhouse gas curves, while the rest of the world clung to their fantasies of a universal Daddy who gave them the earth to eat like a pie in an eating contest. Was their retreat into the Montana badlands to try to contact an extra-terrestrial intelligence any more insane than the infantile belief of a solid majority of Americans that they would be raptured away from the end by angels?

It was hard to look at her, but he forced himself. “You’d rather we stayed in LA, when it fell into the sea, then? You’d prefer to have died in the food riots?”

“We didn’t just come out here to survive,” she spat. “You staked our lives on the premise that someone out there was watching. And that they would save us.”

The distress signal had been going out, in some form or other, for almost twenty years. The endless string of binary laser-light pulses and more esoteric codes were a barrage that anyone who could make sense of mathematics would surely decipher to learn the location of Earth, the dire state of its environment and, if they were as merciful as they were advanced, they would come running to save the few humans left from imminent destruction.

“We could have gone out with our families,” she sobbed, “with people who mattered to us… we could’ve gone somewhere and just tried to live…”
Biography – Cody Goodfellow

Cody Goodfellow has written three solo novels––Radiant Dawn, Ravenous Dusk and Perfect Union––and three more––Jake's Wake, The Day Before and Spore––with John Skipp. His short fiction has been collected in Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars and All Monster Action. As editor and co-founder of Perilous Press, he has published illustrated works of modern cosmic horror by Michael Shea, Brian Stableford and David Conyers. He lives in Los Angeles.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

New Websites: Brimstone Press and John Kenny

Some interesting developments on the web these couple of weeks.



The first is Brimstone Press' return to the fold, with the re-launch of their website and does the site look profoessional. There are three books for purchase: Macabre edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young (and featuring a story from yours truly "Sweet as Decay"), The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines, and Shane Jiraiya Cummings' Shards. More books are promised.




The second is from John Kenny, writer, editor and publisher of Albedo One and Aeon Press. John also offers his services as an editor for authors, and if you are thinking of going down this path, he comes highly recommended from me. John and I collaborated on "Expectant Green" (a science fiction story which will appear in a future issue of Jupiter), and his input made the story shine.

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Joanne Anderton

As the release date for Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue approaches, we though we would introduce you to Joanne Anderton, who wrote one of the most original and bizarre stories in the line-up, “Out Hunting for Teeth”. Joanne’s skills as a writer are demonstrated by her recent novel publication, Debris out from Angry Robot.
1. What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?

I'm really no good at playing favourites. I do, however, have a soft spot for Ghost Beyond Earth by G. M. Hague. I read this book many years ago (when I was but a young thing...) and it left such an impression on me. Twisted, creepy supernatural horror mixed with space-station claustrophobia and good old fashioned madness, all with an Australian setting and tone. There's just something about space and horror that goes together so well, and I think the same things applies to horror set in Australia. So much of the horror in sci-fi comes from the isolation, and the fact that you just can't escape because there's nowhere for you to go. How much is that like the Australian outback? No one can hear you scream on an isolated cattle station either...



2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?

The main character in my story, "Out Hunting for Teeth", is Wype -- a W-type Scavenger-Class android. He's part dead boy, part machine, and he hunts humans through the insides of a crippled starship, so he can extract their useful material, such as skeletons and neural networks. He was built by the Witch, a giant and grotesque creature born from the ship's core. He mostly ignores the whispers from his dead boy's brain and listens to his programming instead, until he finds the body of a man hanged by his own people. What he discovers on the dead man's networks will change everything.

"Out Hunting for Teeth" was inspired by Goya's etching of the same name, which depicts a witch stealing teeth from the body of a hanged man. As soon as I saw it, I just knew I wanted to write about it, but I also knew I wanted to do something... different. This story is the result. My husband described it as a cross between Wall-E and Genocyber and I still think that's the best description!

3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

There's common knowledge about me? Now I'm worried. Well, hmmm, how about: I love writing horror, but I'm a complete chicken when it comes to reading it or watching it. A truly scary movie will give me many sleepless nights before I convince myself that no, the *insert horrific supernatural creature here* isn't real. Got to be supernatural though. Serial killers just bore me.

Out Hunting for Teeth
Joanne Anderton

The colony in the sunside hydroponics chamber had strung the man up in the access corridor like an offering. He swung from the ceiling’s naked beams on a noose of optical fibre and copper wire, and his hands were tied in front of him. His face was expressionless and grey, his mouth hung open, and the nodes drilled into his teeth were misfiring desperate, panicking signals.

W-type Scavenger-Class—nicknamed Wype by his mistress in her cruel glee—had never seen anything like it.

His sensors told him the man was already dead, no need to chase and kill this one himself, which reduced the chance he would damage the man’s spinal enhancements and neural networks. That was good. The Witch was vicious when she was displeased. So it made sense to cut the man down, slice him into manageable parts and drag the useful ones back to her as quickly as possible.

But Wype was more than sensors and circuitry. He was a Witch’s spell, a complex blend of dead human parts and recycled machine parts, given life and a task by his mistress. He shared a brain, and most of his body, with a dead boy. And his boy told him something wasn’t right. Humans were too few and they considered themselves too precious to kill each other indiscriminately. There had to be a reason for this man’s death. Perhaps he was contaminated. If Wype brought a virus—biological or digital—into the Witch’s lair, she would eject him into airless space.

So Wype and his boy decided this required more investigation.

Wype swung himself down from the ducting. His boy leg jarred at the impact. He pumped a fresh round of painkillers into the degenerating muscle, and shuffled awkwardly forward. He was designed for climbing through the hollow bones and rotting guts of the derelict ship, not walking in a straight line. His metallic leg was longer than his human leg, segmented, and hooked at the tip. His one human hand was encased in reinforced ceramic tiles stolen from the ship’s breached hull. He had two mechanical arms. One ended in a hook like his leg, the second was a multi-tool of cables, a light, a soldering iron and a photon-beam blade.

The sensors protruding from Wype’s neck scanned for heat signals, electronic pulses, and neural firings. He detected nothing but the panic emanating from the man’s teeth. He cut the man’s leg, wiped a thin drop of blood directly on the powerful lenses of his mechanical eye, and ran as many scans as he was programmed with. As far as Wype could tell there was nothing wrong with his flesh, other than the rigors of death. That only left his networks.

Wype hauled himself up the wall, extended his blade and cut the man down. Then he dropped back to the floor, and pried open the dead man’s mouth. It took a little drilling with the sharpened tip of his blade to expose enough ports to link himself with the neural network.

Human networks were basically designed for maintenance: they monitored blood pressure, muscle function, and oxygen uptake. But the dead man’s was doing none of those things. Instead, it was flooded with data, a nonsense of figures and formulas, instructions and feedback that didn’t feel human at all. It felt, if anything, like a machine. A jumbled, failing machine.

“Who are you?”

Biography – Joanne Anderton

Joanne Anderton lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor. By night, weekends and lunchtimes she writes dark fantasy and horror. Her short fiction has recently appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and orlds Next Door. She was shortlisted for the 2009 Aurealis Award for best young adult short story. Her debut novel, Debris (Book One the Veiled Worlds Series) will be published by Angry Robot Books in 2011, followed by Suited in 2012. Visit her online at: http://joanneanderton.com and on Twitter@joanneanderton

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Helen Stubbs

Our fourth interview with the contributing authors of Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue is with upcoming Australian weird speculative fiction author, Helen Stubbs. Her contribution “Surgeon Scalpelfingers” is as weird and wonderful as it sounds.

1. What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?

My favourite Science Fiction horror novels are The Visitor and The Margarets by Sheri Tepper. She deals with futures where humankind endures drastic interventions by extra-terrestrial entities. Tepper writes girls who can do whatever they must to survive horrific events, rituals and weapons. The novels are disturbing, beautiful and believable. I would love to be able to create worlds and universes as massive and convincing as hers.

I also love John Wyndham's novella Consider Her Ways, and Kafka's Metamorphosis, which are both subtle horror working with the concept of waking in vastly changed circumstances. Whether you become a breeder or a cockroach, that has to suck.
2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?

My story, “Surgeon Scalpelfingers”, draws on one of my greatest childhood fears...ending up on an alien work bench. Initially, my protagonist observes what has happened in a cool detached manner. I love the narration of John Wyndham and that influenced my style in this piece. Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter inspired me in part (to take my character apart), while the robot from Lost in Space was definitely in the back of my mind as I designed the final product. There are some delightfully icky images in this story. Yay.
3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

My first attempt at constructing a book was non-fiction. It was about my pet chicken, Chatterbox, who hatched one Christmas day then met an untimely end mere months later. Rest in peace, Chatterbox (1985-1986). This story is for you, who will ever be my favourite adolescent rooster, for whom I never found even a torn dappled feather. Was it alien abduction? Perhaps you are free ranging through far off galaxies, making single-legged featherless hens very happy.

Surgeon Scalpelfingers
Helen Stubbs

I woke and wondered if I was still me, then decided probably not. While I had no memory of what I had been, I was certain I’d been a single thing, with a few or more limbs and zero coils.

I was strewn around the dim lab. I still had a sense of my body-parts, though we were no longer directly joined. Some sat tall and alone, on quietly vibrating dishes—that arm for example. It used to have a hand on top, now it had a metallic disc.

A brown organ with a curved back was encased in a glass canister of orange jelly. It had an aerial on top and wires trailing from the base. Yet other parts of former me inhabited small robots, for example, one finger had become the body of a metallic seven-legged beetle...an insect? Insept, I supposed.

Its rubbery neck supported a half-sphere, which turned toward me.

Oh, hello—it held my other eye. That other eye looked back at me, to where this eye and my thoughts were based... in my head? No, not at all. My other eye had a clear view and told me I no longer had a head.

The majority of me was collected on a green operating table. One eye had been set into a circle of skin that was stretched over a cylinder. It looked similar to a drum. I couldn’t see my mouth, but other parts of me lay along the bench, integrated with a lot of hardware. Limbs, organs and a few toes were set into glass and metal casing. The connections between them included cable, wire and some tubing.

I had no skeleton—not bone and not metal. My scaffolding was missing. I could not stand up.
My independent eyes looked about a little more, rolling around their new settings. Beyond the circle of light that surrounded the green bench, it was hard to make out details. But there were my bones; lined up, from shortest to longest, in a slim tank that stretched along a wall. It didn’t look like it included all 206, but approximately a hundred.

My nose sat on top of a tripod. If I had an eye above it, that eye would have quite a view. Perhaps the insept could crawl up and take a look? Actually, it was good vantage point for smelling. My nose sniffed... it smelled blood and Betadine. And something more animal. Something that could do with a wash.

I was a work in progress. If I could have found my tear-ducts I would have cried.

To distract myself, I focused on locating my missing fingers, recalling that there should be another nine of those, along with two arms and two ears. These things were coming back to me. And so was a tall wobbling form, backlit by a bright light beyond the corridor. He was a two-metre tall, hill-shaped blob.

“Surgeon,” said a voice above me, in an unfamiliar language—yet I understood.

The voice belonged to a triangular robot face on a snake-like arm. Its long neck originated from somewhere above, lost in the darkness. It had spoken through a triangular speaker which lit up when it spoke. This mouth was set beneath its round camera eye.

The snake-bot turned to face the surgeon.

The surgeon burped and farted as he moved closer, and his rolls of pale fat came into view. His white face seemed to glow against the dimly lit background. He had bruise-blue lips, just like raw sausages.

His pale yellow eyes were rimmed with red inflammation.

Biography – Helen Stubbs 

Helen Stubbs loves the beautiful weird, especially fiction about the future and alternate realities. Her writing usually includes tough heroines and terrible things. Her unpublished novel, Black Earth, is a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award. She’s currently working on a novel called Verdan’s Marsh. Helen’s short stories have appeared in the Aussiecon Four Souvenir Booklet (competition winner “The Perforation”) and the Australian vampire anthology Dead Red Heart. She’s a member of Queensland Writers Centre, Vision Writers and Prana Writers. Her interests include chatting to strangers, travelling, bike riding, the environment, art and innovation. Contact Helen at twitter.com/superleni and helenstubbs.wordpress.com.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Undead and Unbound

Now that all rejections have been sent and acceptances have been made, the news is out. In our follow up to Cthulhu Unbound 3, Brian M. Sammons and I have teamed up again for a new anthology, Undead and Unbound.

In this horror anthology you will find animated shrunken heads, warrior wights, conquistador skeletons, undead faeries, zombies on Mars, mummifed pharoahs, Malaysian floating head vampires and plenty of other unusual undead.

He is the table of contents, in no particular order, featuring some very talented authors from across the globe:
  • Mother Blood by Scott David Aniolowski
  • Phallus Incarnate by Glynn Owen Barrass
  • Thunder in Old Kilpatrick by Gustavo Bondoni
  • Incarnate by David Dunwoody
  • Blind Item by Cody Goodfellow
  • In the House of a Million Years by John Goodrich
  • When Dark Things Sleep by Damien Walters Grintalis
  • The Unexpected by Mark Allan Gunnells
  • Undead Night of the Undeadest Undead by C.J. Henderson
  • The Wreckers by Tom Lynch
  • Dead Baby Keychain Blues by Gary McMahon
  • Descanse En Paz by William Meikle
  • Marionettes by Robert Neilson
  • I am Legion by Robert M. Price
  • North of the Arctic Circle by Pete Rawlik
  • Scavengers by Oscar Rios
  • Romero 2.0 by Brian M. Sammons & David Conyers
  • The Unforgiving Court by David Schembri
  • A Personal Apocalypse by Mercedes Murdock Yardley
I must say I'm really impressed with the talent we managed to secure. There are some familiar names (to me) in the list, authors whom I've worked with before and am pleased to work with them again, but there were also some fantastic contributions from authors I wasn't aware of, towards whom I have now come to realise how good and how prolific they are.
 
Undead and Unbound will be published by Chaosium in 2012.
 
Stay tuned, more when I can say more...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Cat Sparks

Our third interview with the contributing authors of Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue is with Australian speculative fiction short story writer and editor, Cat Sparks, who penned a space opera horror fantasy with pirates, “Dead Low”.

1. What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?


I'm not sure I have an absolute favourite, but I was really taken by Jeff Long's The Descent when I read it a few years ago. The novel concerns a vast, labyrinthine world of tunnels and caverns below the subsurface of the world and the troglodyte hominid cultures that inhabit them; tribes humans have interpreted as demons throughout history. This is a violent novel rich with character and detail. Many scenes remain indelibly imprinted on my mind.

Other favourites include Stephen King's The Stand and Patricia Highsmith's collection of short stories Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes.

2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?

“Dead Low” is inspired by elephants' graveyards and abandoned children raised by wolves, only instead of elephants there are space ships and in place of wolves run malfunctioning surplus military hardware. Did I mention there are pirates? What's not to like?

3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

Most of my writing, one way or another, tends to be about the search for identity: either mine, my protagonists', or perhaps that of the entire human species. I didn't realise this fact until an astute editor pointed it out after reading a bunch of my stories. “Dead Low”, however, is about SPACE PIRATES!

Dead Low
Cat Sparks

They were seven all up if you counted the pilot—and Clancy always did. Qamar had the smarts to demand a fee in lieu of a share of the plunder. Smarts enough to get paid regardless. He never went in but he’d always got them out. More than once by the skin of their back teeth. He cut things close but close was good enough for Clancy. She wouldn’t have swapped him for all the jewels on Europa.

The Sargasso Drift was not for the faint hearted. Not for greenhorns either. She knew she should have left the kid at base. Konte was excited for all the wrong reasons. Busting out and itching for a fight. Trouble was the last thing Clancy needed. The Sargasso Drift was trouble enough on its own.

“Looks like an elephants’ graveyard,” said Kyah, picking at her fingernails as Clancy enhanced the view. Before them, a sea of debris meshed with frozen rocks. Shattered hulls slept nestled amongst them, their once shiny surfaces pockmarked by centuries of micro impacts. Booster cylinders, photon drives, modular components battered into new and unrecognisable shapes. All jammed together to form a large amorphous mass, like a cancer or a blood clot. And something else; a substance registering as a brown-grey shadow that looked as though it should have been rock, but wasn’t.

“This here’s what you call a dead low,” Clancy explained. “Everything adrift in this part of the system ends up here sooner or later.”

Corvettes, cutters, blockade runners, battle cruisers, satellites, zips and flails, and all the other junk detritus illegally dumped from freighters.

“Elephant?” asked Konte, the kid in battle fatigues so new, the fabric was still stiff and shiny.

“An ancient kind of ship,” said Pace. “Freighter. Pre-Empire. Reckon this is where the Horgis generals sent their ships to die.”

“No way!” said the kid, his eyes as wide as saucers. He turned to Clancy. “Can’t we get in closer?”

“Not until we have to.” The grim tone to Clancy’s voice gave them all an early warning. All except the kid, of course, this being his first time out. Nobody wanted him along for the ride. Virgin heroes were generally the first to fall, usually dragging some other poor bastard down with them.

“First in, first serve for salvage rights,” said Kyah. Her hands were trembling, which meant she was on the juice again. Not good.

“Hon, we’re far from being the first. A good many of those shattered hulls belonged to salvage crews.”

“Not good ones, though. If they were good, they would never have bought it so easy.”

Clancy decided to let it go. Regret was already gnawing at her edges. The lies it had taken to get them all this far. After all, the ship belonged to Pace. His ship, Barbuda’s map, but the heartache was hers and hers alone. If she was wrong then none of it was going to matter.

“So what does the scan say?”

DeVere was already on it. “Highly mineralised,” he offered.

Biography – Cat Sparks

Cat Sparks is fiction editor of Cosmos Magazine. She managed Agog! Press, an Australian independent press that produced ten anthologies of new speculative fiction from 2002-2008. A graduate of the inaugural Clarion South Writers’ Workshop and a Writers of the Future prize winner, she has edited five anthologies of speculative fiction and more than fifty of her short stories have been published since 2000. She’s won thirteen Aurealis and Ditmar awards for writing, editing and art. She is currently working on a dystopian/biopunk trilogy and a suite of post-apocalypse tales set on the New South Wales south coast. www.catsparks.net (Photo credit: Selena Quintrell)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Announcement: Cthulhu Unbound 3

Forthcoming from Permuted Press, Cthulhu Unbound 3.


In a successful series started by John Sunseri and Thom Brannan, Cthulhu Unbound 3 presents four novellas of Lovecraftian horror. Cody Goodfellow's "Unseen Empire" returns to the wild west in an exploration of a cavernous city under the American Plains. D.L. Snell's "MirrorrorriM" shows us just how weird the Cthulhu Mythos can be when truly embraced. Tim Curran's "Nemisis Theory" investigates what a man would do if he was trapped in a maximum security prison with horrors from beyond. David Conyers and Brian M. Sammons' "The R'lyeh Singularity" continues the saga of NSA consultant Harrison Peel and CIA agent Jordan on a globe espionage adventure to halt the return of the greatest of the Great Old Ones.

Edited by Brian M. Sammons and David Conyers. Cover illustration by Peter C. Fussey. Published by Permuted Press. Anticipated 2012 release.
 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Alan Baxter

In our second interview as part of the lead up to Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Issue, we have an interview with Alan Baxter. His contribution tackles the fears faced by space travellers far form home and very deep into the void.

1. What is your favorite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?

This is a really tough one to answer. Some of the best sci-fi horror is in the movies as it's sadly under-represented in written fiction, but there is a lot of good stuff out there. However, while it's not necessarily classified as horror, I would have to say Peter Watts's novel, Blindsight. It's a hard SF first-contact novel, and not really a horror novel in the commonly accepted sense. But Watts does such an amazing job of creating a truly alien entity for first contact and develops such horrifying reality around what such an encounter would really be like, that I find it hard to go past. It's an outstanding book, and perhaps the most horrifying element for me is the way the aliens move. Seriously, read it and you'll see what I mean.
2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?

My story involves a few influences. Firstly, my science fiction tends to be heavy on the fiction and light on the science. I'm not scientifically educated enough to make the scientific elements of a story really convincing, but I love the scope for exploring ideas that SF gives a writer. There's certainly way more out there than we can comprehend, let alone prepare for, as the example of Blindsight above so ably demonstrates. On top of that, the experiences of humans in deep space would be very different to any experience available on Earth and I like to play with those ideas too. So my story explores the nature of very deep space exploration, the inexplicable things that might be out there, and the psychology of the people in those situations. I like my sci-fi to have a bit of a wild frontiers element, with the technological and human challenges that would bring. For example, the main character, Peevy, has a condition called deepfear, like a galactic agoraphobia, which was a lot of fun to play with.

3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

I'm such an online whore that I doubt there's much people don't already know. But here's a couple of things. I wrote a sequel story to "Trawling The Void", called "Salvage In The Void", which picks up exactly where the first story ends, and that sequel just placed as a semi-finalist in the Writers Of The Future competition. So now I need to find somewhere to publish it. Also, I used to be a fishmonger. How's that?

Trawling the Void
Alan Baxter

The incoherent voices in Peevy’s mind were more insistent. The ghostly dragging at his clothes and skin stronger, though he knew nothing was there. He ground his teeth, staring at the diagnostics panel.

I’m not going mad. I’m not going mad. The thought was becoming his mantra.
He reached one hand down and scratched the soft, furry head of LaVey. The SimHound looked up, gave him a doggy smile. Peevy frowned at engine efficiency readouts. “Look at this, Jack.”

The Duty Engineer, an old ship hand, rough around the edges, shrugged. “Looks all right to me.” His grizzled old face showed no signs of worry.

Peevy glanced up, surprised. “Really? Look at the energy fluctuation across the coils.”

“It’s not much.”

“Maybe not, but as we don’t know what’s causing it we have to find out.”

“You’re the boss.”

Peevy smiled at the Duty Engineer. He was getting lazy in his old age.

#

“This array seems fine.” Peevy twisted in the cramped space to look the other way. “What about there?” The presence surged and he stiffened, wincing as he tried to ignore it.

The tech opposite gave a thumbs up. “Yep, this one’s fine too.”

Peevy made a sound of annoyance. LaVey watched with heavy-lidded disinterest as Peevy and the tech emerged from the service bay. Jack’s eyebrows raised. “Nothing.”

The old eyebrows sank as he smiled. “There you go then.”

“No. The engines are still out of whack. You should care about this. I think we should do a full restart.”

“The Cap will not be happy about that.”

“The Cap will have to suck it up.”

Biography – Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author living on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, science fiction and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. His contemporary dark fantasy novels, RealmShift and MageSign, are out through Gryphonwood Press, and his short fiction has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US and the UK, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror. Alan is also a freelance writer, penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website: www.alanbaxteronline.com

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Skyfall (Bond 23)

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm a James Bond fan. I've read all the Fleming novels. Casino Royale is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a film series that has only ever gotten better as it went along. So I was very excited to watch the press conference online at MI6 regarding the new movie, Bond 23, now offically known as Skyfall.

The cast is pretty exciting, with Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Ben Whishaw. I have a sneaky suspiscion that Mr. Fiennes will be Blofeld, but I'll wait and see.

The press conference did say there would be no Quantum organisation from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, which is a shame. I wanted to see Bond infiltrate them.

Film locations include Britian, Scotland, Istanbul and Shanghai.

Sam Mendes directing and screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. David Arnold will score the sound track.
I'm one excited individual.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Eye of Infinity available for Purchase

The Eye of Infinity is now available for purchase, at the Perilous Press website. Here is the blurb:

Cover by MIKE DUBISCH
Interior illustrations by NICK GUCKER

ISBN 0-9704000-4-8
Trade Paperback, 84 Pages

At a remote radio telescope facility in New Mexico, an astrophysicist commits suicide after contracting a hideous mutative plague caused by something he saw...and he won't be the last.

Major Harrison Peel has witnessed his share of cosmic atrocities before, but now he faces a threat worse than death and a powerful enemy that hides behind a human face.

When a top-secret NASA program refuses to heed his warnings, Peel is catapulted into a nightmarish government conspiracy that takes him from Fort Meade's Puzzle Palace to the launchpads of Cape Canaveral; from the desolate Atacama Desert of Chile to the very heart of the universe itself, all in a desperate bid to close... THE EYE OF INFINITY.

The Eye of Infinity is a new novella in the epic series that began in The Spiraling Worm and is a spellbinding fusion of cosmic horror, quantum physics and espionage action.



"The Advertising Imperative" on Ticon4.com

I'm excited to announce my short story "The Advertising Imperative" has been published by the good folk at Ticon4.com, or more specifically, Liz Grzyb. This story combines my love of space opera with my professional experience in marketing communications. Satrical I know, and one of those stories that only approaches an issue from one viewpoint, but I'm still really happy with the finished product.

Also thanks to Damien Broderick who gave me some great editorial advice on this one.

If you want to read it (and vote for it), go here.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Midnight Echo 6 Interviews: Andrew J McKiernan

Here is the first in a series of interviews and story exrtracts with the contributors to Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror issue, due for release in November 2011. The first interview off the post is Andrew J. McKiernan, who gave us a creepy Lovecraftian tale set on a comet.

Midnight Echo: What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?
 
Andrew: Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds is probably my favourite. It  might not be horror in the traditional sense, but it uses a lot of the tropes to create suspense and a more than sufficient amount of dark  imagery. Essentially an almost-hard-sf space opera, Revelation Space also delights in inflicting a bleak and menacing future upon its readers. There is the Nostalgia For Infinity; a centuries old starship more like a rotting Gothic castle than the flashy futuristic sterility of other SF ships. It once carried hundreds and thousands of passengers, but now only a handful of crew members haunt its dark corridors. Not only that, but both the ship and its captain have been infected by the Melding Plague, a virus that attacks humans and machines in equal measure, transforming them into grotesque symbiotes that make it impossible to tell where the machine ends and the human begins. Add into all that the overall series arc (continued in further novels) of a billion year old alien race that has already once wiped out almost all life in the galaxy and is intent on doing it again, and you have some strong Lovecraftian overtones. How can anyone go wrong with a mix like that?
 
Midnight Echo: Tell us about your story and what your influences are?
 
Andrew: My story, "The Wanderer In The Darkness" is a quite obvious attempt at moving something of the Lovecraft Mythos into space. I've always seen Lovecraft's main mythos tales as being more SF than Horror; these are aliens we are dealing with, not supernatural demons, and the leap from Lovecraft's more common setting of early 20th century America to 21st century deep space seemed an easy leap to make as far as story-telling goes. It is a simple story, essentially; a crew on a routine mission finds out that things aren't at all what they expected them to be. It is a trope that has been used to connect Horror and SF in films so many times in the past - Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon, Pandorum - but not so much that I've encountered in literature.

I'd also been reading about our physical exploration of comets via space probes, which first occurred with the Deep Space 1 probe in 2001 and continued on with Deep Impact 1 in 2005 and more recently Stardust in 2011. The orbits of comets through our solar system can take anything from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years, and some originate from the inside Oort cloud - a place so far away that it may extend almost a full light year out from the sun - and yet even at that distance it is still classed as part of our solar system. Those sort of distances and time-spans are somewhat mind-boggling and fit in so well with the types of things Lovecraft was hinting at. These cold, dark bodies, drifting for aeon's through unimaginable kilometres of space, returning occasionally to shed light and sometimes destruction upon the planets of our solar system. Harbingers of all sorts of prophesies throughout the history of man. It all seemed so perfect for a tale.

And so, what happens when we are finally able to set foot on one of these objects? What will we find? That's the essential thrust of my tale and how the influences came together.

Midnight Echo: Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?

Andrew: That's right, always leave the hardest question until last! To be honest, if it isn't common knowledge I probably have a reason for keeping it that way. Some things, especially about a horror writer, should always remain hidden and mysterious.

The Wanderer in the Darkness
Andrew J McKiernan

At a distance of just under 3,500 kilometres, the comet should have been visible as an object roughly the size of a full moon seen from earth. Instead, the passengers and crew saw only darkness and a spattering of light-year distant stars.
 
“It’s still out there, isn’t it?”
 
The question was from Graham Tully, a young Glacial Geologist on his first trip out of Earth’s gravity well. Three months out of slow-ship stasis and he could still taste the rotten-egg of hydrogen sulphide, still woke up choking on dreams of the hibernation tank’s cramped confines and perfluorocarbon breathing fluid filling his lungs. The transfer from Neptune orbit aboard the *Spiritus Mundi* had been easier; awake all the way under a constant, barely noticeable, 0.01G.
 
“Yeah, it’s still there,” Captain Haldane answered. “Why’re you here, Tully? You know anything at all about comets?”
 
“I know about ice. Supposed to be studying the Yasu Sulci ice ridges on Triton but this was too good an opportunity to pass up. So, where is it?”
 
Dr Susan Maradin, the mission’s astrogeologist, kicked off from a bulkhead towards a bank of display panels. Her fingers flicked across a keyboard and the display panels lit up with a variety of multi-hued blobs centred in blackness. Tully recognised them as spectrographic imagery—infra-red, ultra-violet, chemical emissions, x-ray—and he could see the shape of the comet in their rainbow swirls.
 
“See, still there,” Dr. Maradin said. “Comets are the least reflective objects in the solar system. They might be mostly ice, but the surface is a tarry crust of organic compounds. It absorbs most of the light that hits it. Probably won’t see anything unaided until we’re right on top of it. Maybe Peregrine Base will have left a light or two on for us?”
 
The mention of Peregrine Base caused the Captain to shift uncomfortably in his couch. He turned to his Co-pilot and found her already looking his way.
“Still no ping from Peregrine, Lieutenant Garneau?”
 
“Nothing, Captain. Peregrine’s nav-beacon and communication relays are transmitting identification codes, but no replies to our outgoings. Could be they’re out at a drill site?”
 
“For over twelve hours? Someone would have stayed back at the base, or they would have taken a radio with them.”
 
Lieutenant Garneau didn’t answer. She knew this was true. In space you never went anywhere without a radio capable of transmitting a signal, even if it was only an emergency beacon.
 
Biography - Andrew J McKiernan
 
 
Andrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of NSW. Since 2007 his short stories and novelettes have appeared in Aurealis and Midnight Echo magazines and well as the anthologies Shadow Plays, CSFG's Masques, In Bad Dreams 2, Scenes From the Second Storey and Macabre: A Journey Through Australia's Darkest Fears. His stories have been shortlisted twice for both the Aurealis and Australian Shadows awards, as well as Ditmar Awards shorlistings for both his writing and illustration. His short story "The Memory of Water" was recently reprinted in Ticonderoga Publications' Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 and his story "The Desert Song" received an Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year Vol.3 anthology. New stories are forthcoming in Aurealis #46 and Midnight Echo #6, both due for publication in November 2011.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Spooks (2002-2011)

My favorite TV series of the 2000s, Spooks, has come to an end. The series, which ran for ten seasons and 86 episodes featured the lives of MI5 officers protecting Britian from the threats of terrorism. The series was always very topical with plot lines straight out of the headlines, and one never knew when major characters would die or leave the series suddenly. Only one character appeared in every episode, Head of Counter-Terrorism Harry Pearce.


It is sad to see the series end, but sometimes I think this is a good thing, that a series ends on a high note, and will always be remembered that way. I'm glad I got to experience the series, because it certainly infuenced my writingn and what I want to write and how I want to write it. The write, ideas and plot lines, as well as the tension, was always so superb.


 
More informaion on the show can be found here and here.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Extract from "The Masked Messenger"

This is an extract from my latest Harrison Peel tale, "The Masked Messenger" co-authored with John Goodrich and appearing in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #52.

The Masked Messenger
David Conyers & John Goodrich
 
Harrison Peel counted the dead as more covered corpses rolled into the Marrakech morgue. They weren’t really humans, rather the dissected remains of their flesh, bloody in leaking body bags. The sharp, coppery smell of blood filled the room, reminding Peel of an abattoir.

Lounging next to Peel was Fabien Chemal, a spook with Morocco’s DST intelligence agency. Chemal mumbled something in Arabic about being inconvenienced by the gory spectacle. While he watched junior spooks and morgue attendants catalogue the grim remains, he offered Peel a cigarette. Peel refused, wishing instead for a good strong coffee.

“How many dead?” Peel wiped his sweaty hands on cotton pants. It should have been cold in this place. That’s how they would have done it back in the NSA. Cold to keep the body parts preserved for proper forensic analysis.

Chemal shrugged, lit his cigarette. “We don’t know yet. At least eighteen dead: five Americans, two Germans, one Spaniard. The rest were my people, but I guess your people won’t care about that.”

“I care.” Peel said as he stood. The smell of death and smoke felt constricting from his seat in a corner. “The NSA care, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

Chemal raised an eyebrow. “I get the impression, Mr. Peel, that you were a little eager to come in person, rather than send a subordinate?”

Peel didn’t know precisely what Chemal’s rank was in the murky hierarchy of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire. He did know that any time he didn’t spend with Chemal he would spend being tailed. They were controlling him, and this would make his job here more difficult than it needed to be.

The morgue was in the basement of Marrakech DST offices. At least one more level existed beneath their feet, reserved for DST’s prisoners and interrogation cells. In this building, the dead warranted more respect than detainees.

“Some personal reason perhaps, Mr. Peel?”

Peel ignored Chemal’s question. The Moroccan’s tone sounded too inquisitive, as if Peel were under interrogation. “You said you don’t know how many died in the blast? How’s that? And secondly I’m not sure it really was a blast. To me the bodies look like they’ve been sliced to pieces. Thousands of pieces?”

“They were ... They still will be?”

Peel’s stomach felt empty. He was confused, but then everything about yesterday’s terrorist bombing in Jemaa el-Fna square lacked any resemblance to sense. The blast had been invisible, soundless. People were shredded where they stood in the Marrakech market. Yet their clothes, wallets, purses, souvenirs and the pavement beneath them remained untouched. It was as if invisible demons had mutilated their victims with razor sharp teeth and claws.

“Do you know that some of the victims died before the blast occurred, hours, even days before?”

“I don’t understand?”

Chemal shrugged. “Neither do we ... really.” His burned-down cigarette hung precariously from his lip as he reached for another. Perhaps his need to smoke was only a need not to smell death. “Of the eighteen dead, two were market vendors who would have been in the square at the time of the blast, had they not been shredded three days earlier. The German pair were found in their homes two mornings ago in the same mutilated state.”

Feeling anxious, Peel rubbed the back of his head where it itched. He saw a pattern now, and wished he didn’t. Yet he’d been right to come so far, these people needed to know what he knew, if only they would let him help. “There’s more, isn’t there Mr. Chemal?”

“Yes.” The Moroccan lit a new cigarette from the embers of the last one. “Three more have died in the twenty-four hours since. Same cause of death: spontaneous shredding.”
“And none were in the square at the time?”

“They were when the blast went off.” He caught Peel’s stare with a sardonic grin. “You came all this way Mr. Peel, all the way from Maryland, U.S.A. Can you tell me what it is that’s happened here?”

Peel wouldn’t catch his stare. “You said the bomber is still alive? I need to speak to her before I can give you definite answers ... if I can do even that.”

Midnight Echo Article on Influencing.com.au

An article on the future direction of Midnight Echo has just been published in the Influencing website.

Influencing is a website for Australian and New Zealand public relations and marketing communications professionals.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Andromeda Spaceways 52 is Released

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) issue 52 is released.

David Kernot edited Issue 52 and amassed a collection of 19 modern Australian and overseas speculative fiction selections from the following authors: Sean Monaghan, Dominik J Parisien, Nicky Drayden, Kathleen Jennings, Brenda Anderson, Felicity Pulman, Liz Colter, Ray Tabler, Melanie Typaldos, Linda Jenner, Rachel Kolar, GR McLeod, LK Pinaire, Margaret Karmazin, Pam L Wallace, David Conyers and John Goodrich, Peter Cooper, Natalie Nikolovski, and Ken Liu.

Poetry is from Alexander Seidel and Jack Horne and artwork is from David Conyers, Kathleen Jennings and Olivia Kernot. I think the cover is fantastic.

My contribution in a new Harrison Peel tale, "The Masked Messenger", co-authored with John Goodrich.

More details and how to purchase issues are found here.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Special Released in November

Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror Special, is almost complete and will be out in November 2011.


Today Midnight Echo has a new website and includes a press release on issue 6, an interview on the issue with myself a co-editors David Kernot and Jason Fischer, and details on how to submit for Issue 7 edited by Daniel I. Russell.

It also includes my story co-authored with David Kernot, "Winds of Nzambi".

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Kindle Edition of Macabre and Award Plaque

I discovered two very cool things today. The first was that Brimstone Press' Macabre is now available as a Kindle Edition on Amazon.com.


The anthology, edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young, with a very cool cover by Shane Jiraiya Cummings, featured my West African zombie spy horror novella, "Sweet as Decay" co-authored with David Witteveen. Now this book is available to the world. Here is the blurb:

Explore Australia's dark literature past, present, and future all in one landmark anthology! From the very earliest colonial ghost stories through to grim tales of modern life, Macabre will take you on a journey through the dark heart of Australian horror. With classic stories from Australia's masters of horror alongside the best of the new era, Macabre: A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears is the finest dark fiction anthology ever produced in Australia.

Macabre features 38 stories from Australian literary legends such as Henry Lawson, Barbara Baynton, Marcus Clarke, David Unaipon, Mary Fortune, and A. Bertram Chandler; modern masters such as Terry Dowling, Kaaron Warren, and Sean Williams; and the 21st century's brightest new horror stars: Stephen M. Irwin, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Paul Haines, Richard Harland, David Conyers, and Will Elliott.

Macabre: A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears is the winner of the 2010 Australian Shadows Award, and it was nominated for the 2010 Bram Stoker Award!

The second piece of news is that I received my plaque for my win in the Australian Horror Writers Association's Short Story Competition this year. I'm very excited. My second writing award.


"Winds of Nzambi" was co-authored with David Kernot, and will be published in Midnight Echo 6, out in a couple of months.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Eye of Infinity at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival

It's official, The Eye of Infinity is out, even if it isn't yet available on Amazon.com or from other online booksellersw yet. However, if you are in Los Angeles on the 16-17 of September, and are attending the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, the first copies will be officially released there.

Cody Goodfellow, Adam Barnes and Mike Dubisch will be attending, all of whom have been key in ensuring the books release.

Alas, I would be there myself if Los Angelse was not so far away from Australia.